North Texas Daily

“The Craft”: How queer-coding empowered a generation

“The Craft”: How queer-coding empowered a generation

“The Craft”: How queer-coding empowered a generation
November 27
12:00 2020

As “The Craft: Legacy” made its way to our homes last month, I was reminded of its original story: a group of teen girls finding each other and discovering their magical powers. “The Craft” has gained a cult following over the years, and a big demographic of that has been the LGBTQ+ community. The gays and girls are no stranger to the horror franchise, despite being frequently misrepresented. After all, early works in Hollywood indoctrinated gays into cinema through the use of queer-coding.

Because of the stigmatization of homosexuality, gays were often portrayed to be the villains of society, a threat to the heteronormative values that American life prized. The same could be said for more individualistic women, who challenged the stereotypes of dormant and submissive sexuality.

Hollywood’s answer was to portray the danger of such women through the use of femme fatale tropes. The connection between witches and sexuality in women or men is far-reaching and surpasses Hollywood, it’s deeply ingrained into our history. After all, women who showed sexual agency in the times of witch trials were often the ones to be burned at the stake or drowned in the river.

Furthermore, effeminate or gay men were often were assumed to be the warlocks and served the same fate. These connections all culminate in “The Craft.” The film analyzes a lot of the gay experiences of othering and alienation and uses the contextual history of the occult to provide an enriching experience. The girls find each other through longing glances, realizations that they are like one another and are different from everyone else. In a society that does not accept you and actively seeks to harm you for your differences, it makes sense to hide who you are. The whole encounter mimics the search for the romantic attention and affection queer teenagers often engage in.

While straight men and women can be open and honest with their attractions and thus easily find partners to fulfill their needs, gay teenagers risk real danger by outing themselves. However, this danger doesn’t stop the search for similar experiences their peers know all too well. It only creates a certain amount of creativity through the use of clothing, social cues and, yes, longing stares.

As the girls grow closer, they head to the side of town where people like them exist. Nancy confidently states her infamous line “we are the weirdos, mister,”  to a bus driver concerned with their safety, acknowledging their own differences and the search for people like them. So often do gay men and women live in smaller towns that echo homophobic rhetoric and actions. Naturally, it is not uncommon for them to dream of moving to a more progressive city.

Soon the girls have achieved stronger powers through their visit and return home, using their abilities for various reasons. However, two stick out to the viewer. The protagonist Sarah casts a love spell, wishing to be desired by a man who has disrespected her, while Nancy wishes for even more power. Sarah’s love spell can be interpreted as a spell that indicates a need for the sexual appreciation that often many queer teenagers do not receive. On the other hand, Nancy’s quest for power is truly an act of revenge.

What makes this film a powerful narrative for queer kids is the revenge plot. This is not to say that they crave violence, but for many, the fantasy of returning to those who once tormented them more experienced, attractive or wealthier is deeply fulfilling. In a way, it reiterates the film’s themes of acceptance. At the height of someone’s success, it becomes hard to downplay their worth. Nancy’s revenge acts as catharsis for the anger and betrayal the queer community feels. It is a fulfilling fantasy for viewers who have felt othered and unworthy.

It makes sense that a demographic experiencing this would gravitate to media that tackles these issues. For all the heterosexuality in this film, there are a lot of themes related to the queer community, and that’s what makes this cult classic so compelling. Even when it’s not spooky season, “The Craft” is a good watch for anyone.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Davion Smith

Davion Smith

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